Tuesday, August 30, 2016
How was your weekend? We had a Bank Holiday on Monday, so John and I took the opportunity to purge our house of all the stuff we didn't need and ... it was hard. Hard to part with some things I'd been hanging on to for a while (but I was ruthless); hard to find the motivation to get to the bottom of that box, if you know what I mean.
I'm not going to lie: I'm the messiest person ever. I have a bad habit of leaving piles around the house (piles of paper, piles of jewelry) and I never, ever hang up my clothes. But walking into our messy room at the end of the day (because of my clothes piles, oops!) was making me angry and anxious - and I was the only person who could do anything about it.
So, I went to H&M Home and bought these felt boxes for £14.99. They're perfect for storing my small handbags, scarves, and other winter accessories. To avoid piling up clothes in that area of my wardrobe, I made a pact with myself to always either fold what I wasn't wearing in my chest of drawers (like t-shirts or sweaters) and to hang things like coats, jackets, dresses, and blouses. It felt so satisfying to open my wardrobe doors and to see order, rather than chaos!
Then there was the issue of my accessories ... during the summer, my sunglasses are strewn everywhere (mostly at the bottom of my handbags, which is why I never buy expensive sunglasses) and I forget that I own half the costume jewelry that I do because it's hidden in boxes and drawers.
So, I bought two jewelry display cases from eBay (they were something like £7 each) and put all my sunglasses and costume jewelry in them. At the end of the day, I realized that it was about having a "home" for everything - it's much harder to misplace things when you return it back to its place (easier said than done, I know!).
Finally, I decided to tackle my fragrance collection. I love wearing perfume, but it cluttered up my small vanity table, so I tended to keep the bottles out of sight ... and promptly forgot they existed. On that same trip to H&M Home, I bought this gold tray (£6.99), which comes in three different sizes (John bought some as well for his cuff links and collar stays). It's just the right size for my small perfume collection, and it's pretty to boot.
Do you have any great storage suggestions? I'd love to hear them. I miss places like Bed, Bath & Beyond and The Container Store in the States, which are so handy for storage solutions like these. I find that buying things like storage and other home organization tools in the UK involve a lot of trial and error, which can be frustrating (especially when you're carting them home from work on the tube or having to stay in for a delivery to your door!).
Wednesday, August 24, 2016
I was supposed to "spring" clean AKA Marie Kondo our house, but then spring turned into summer and I'm still sitting amidst a pile of books stacked around me in the living room, eyeing up skirts I haven't worn for years that are threatening to topple the lids off of clear Tupperware containers and walking past random pieces of paper that are too important to throw away yet not important enough to put away (you feel me on this one?).
So, even though I should really be minimizing, these are the five items I found online this week that I've been drooling over and just can't quite get out of my head:
1. Mint green enamel bowls - specifically, for ice cream. I've been eating so much ice cream since my jaw/sinus operation (and a subsequent abscessed tooth on the opposite side - don't even ask) that I think I'm going to turn into a tub of Madagascan slow-churned vanilla. Then I became unsatisfied with scooping ice cream into the plain white bowls we use for soup and am now convinced that I need these mint enamel bowls from Postcards Home, specifically for ice cream.
2. Gold glass vase - for my new Abigail Ahern faux flowers. So faux, yet so realistic. You'll see.
3. Cotton throw - just to, you know, drape casually across our West Elm garden sectional and wrap around myself for evening movie nights that are inadvertently cut short by mosquitos biting every bit of exposed skin. Sad face.
4. Marble salt cellar - when we stayed at an Airbnb in Bordeaux, the owner had this effortlessly chic way of storing salt in her kitchen: in a little glass dish with an impossibly small spoon. It was simple, irreverent, and totally French. This OTT beauty from Att Pynta is my way of paying homage to this way of French cooking.
5. Ikat bamboo placemats - for outdoor dining. They'd look great on our garden table.
What's on your wishlist?
Friday, August 19, 2016
So, I'm off to a wedding this weekend (yay for getting dressed up, watching my friend walk down the aisle and crying all the good, happy tears when she does!) in Norfolk, but if you're around in London, you might want to grab a bite to eat at one of these five fabulous places ...
Brisket fries at The Old Crown Public House, Holborn
Slow braised beef on fries, topped with melted cheddar cheese, served with The O.C.'s (that's how they refer to themselves - I'm from the West Coast, where that phrase conjures up a whole other kind of meaning. You CA kids know what I mean.) special sauces. I tried these with a bunch of friends after work on my way to another event and I was pretty sad to have to leave these fries behind. Share or have all to yourself: they're worth it.
Brioche French toast for lunch at The Black Penny, Covent Garden
The Black Penny's breakfast menu is served well past traditional "lunch time", so I came here with Julianna Barnaby of Barnaby & Co. (check out their amazing homeware!) and did not regret ordering the brioche French toast with stewed rhubarb, vanilla ricotta, salted pistachios and honey. Not one bit. It looked so tasty, the well-to-do ladies at the table next to us leaned over and said, "Excuse us - we don't mean to be rude, but that looks absolutely marvellous. What is it?" Fact.
Burger, crinkle-cut fries and a shake (and a concrete) at Shake Shack
John and I went on this insane shopping spree at Westfield Stratford a few weekends ago. As if that wasn't gluttonous enough, we stopped at Shake Shack on our way out and had the dreamiest burger and fries, washed down with a Black & White milkshake for me (vanilla frozen custard hand-spun with chocolate fudge sauce) and a concrete (dense frozen custard ice cream with goodies like peanut butter, chocolate, etc. mixed in) for him. I don't know what took me so long to try Shake Shack, but it lived up to the hype. Completely. "What the hell were we doing before Shake Shack?" John exclaimed as we left. I don't know, husband, I don't know.
Cotton candy-encased matcha and hojicha soft serve ice cream at Milk Train Cafe, Covent Garden
I posted this photo in a local foodie Facebook group I'm part of and the observations were: "Looks like someone sh*t on a cloud" and "A good way to ruin candy floss. Smells of hipsterism to me". Oh the poor, sad souls who feel threatened by new food inventions. Too bad their tastebuds will never be tickled by something that isn't a sirloin steak or bag of salty vinegar chips. I cry for them, because this ice cream was one of the tastiest soft serves I've ever tried, and the cotton candy was fun (albeit a bit messy) to unravel from the cone it was attached to. Worth a visit.
For those who are frightened by anything more exotic than vanilla ice cream, however, there's always spaghetti bolognese at Spaghetti House, which, despite being a chain, ranks high on my list of London haunts for one reason: tradition. Every month, I have lunch there with a friend from work and we always order the same thing: spag bol for me, a simple spaghetti with pecorino and olive oil for her, a side salad, garlic bread to share and - if we're feeling celebratory - a glass of red wine each. It's our "comfort" lunch, really, where we catch up on life outside work and talk about everything we can't at our desks. The food isn't Michelin-starred or trendy and not much more can be said about the service or the atmosphere, but it does what it says on the tin.
Where have you been eating (or cooking) lately? I'd love to know!
(p.s. a really weird thing just happened: I typed in the title of the post and suddenly realized, I live in London? That's so crazy/totally cool!)
Wednesday, August 17, 2016
When I was in high school, I had a summer job as a sales assistant at a now-defunct department store in my hometown. Low points included hanging up returned men's underwear and selling store credit to customers I knew probably couldn't afford to make their payments just so I could keep my job (we had to meet a certain quota every week, otherwise our hours were cut). High points included gazing at the jewelry counter ever-so-often and using the store discount, which came in handy. I had my eye on a particular watch, so I saved up for it all summer long. On my last shift, I came home exhausted and turned over the covers in my bed to find the watch sitting there, in a box. My dad had bought it for me - not wanting me to spend my hard-earned money, but meanwhile teaching me a lesson about saving up for something (it didn't work, by the way, I still anxiously eye my bank account the week before every payday).
It also goes to show that I love watches. They serve a practical function, sure, but I treat them like any other accessory and - depending on what mood I'm in - I might wear my rose gold bracelet watch from Kate Spade on days I'm feeling fancy or my minimalist black, leather-strap Cluse watch on days I'm feeling cool (note: I am neither fancy or cool).
This summer, not unlike that high school summer I described above, I pined after (very specifically) a watch with a white face and a light grey leather strap.
Then I saw the No. 27 by The Camden Watch Company (named after the No. 27 bus in London) and I got the same feeling I had when I was seventeen and looking through a glass jewelry display.
A modern take on the classic vintage dials seen on Victorian clocks and pocket watches, this watch spoke to me. A little oversized (but not too clownish on my bitty wrists), it has an industrial feel to it and is evocative of London's streets, markets, and history. The light grey strap makes it easier to wear with my lighter, pastel-palette summer wardrobe and it's something I'd slip on for a wedding or for a casual weekend picnic.
It's a beauty. It's also wonderful to see a London-based, British watch brand thriving in the indie watch-making scene. Although The Camden Watch Company's roots are in Switzerland (which is famed, amongst other things, for its luxury watch industry and design), its place is firmly in Camden, where its two founders, Anneke Short and Jerome Robert, currently live.
Each watch is named after a bus route that runs through Camden Town and each is designed at The Camden Watch Company's offices in Camden. In fact, the watch is so Camden-centric, the back is stamped with the motto found on the crest of Camden: "Not For One But For All".
All these little details make the watch so special, and the design is actually very similar to the one my dad gave me all those years ago. I'm getting all sentimental.
I'm a fan of the other watches in The Camden Watch Company's collection, including the No. 88 (it's so simple and classic!) and the No. 24 Northern Line, which I think would look great on John. Which one would you choose?
I'm always surprised by the number of people I know who don't wear a watch. Do you? Do have one or several to choose from, depending on your mood? (Fun fact: speaking of my dad, he alternates between wearing a Rolex and a plastic Dragonball Z watch he bought for HK $8 in a random side street in Hong Kong ... he actually wears the Dragonball Z watch to meetings at work and thinks it's hilarious when people comment on it!)
My No. 27 watch was generously provided by The Camden Watch Company. I look at it longingly most days and wear it on others. Shop the entire collection here. All opinions are my own.
Tuesday, August 16, 2016
Last week, and indeed, over the weekend, when I was recovering from this pretty-freaking-intense operation I had in my upper jaw/sinus (I still can't eat "normal" food quite yet), I found myself feeling guilty for napping outside in our garden; for watching back-to-back episodes of Gilmore Girls on loop until I passed out in front of the TV; for eating ice cream followed by jello followed by more ice cream.
Still tired from the after-effects of general anaesthesia, I pushed myself to do laundry; to iron; to tidy; to clean. On more than one occasion, I felt guilty for not writing and publishing blog posts, of all things. I tried to sit down and write, but my brain was too fuzzy from painkillers to formulate a sentence that I was happy with.
And then I thought: what the actual f*ck? I'm recovering from an operation - not skipping work to chill out at home. Where my left cheek joins my gumline, I have stitches that run from behind my last molar to just under my nose. I do not need to feel guilty for resting and relaxing.
A couple years ago, I suffered a terrible, devastating loss. I remember grieving this loss nearly eight months later and crying to my friend on the phone, "Why can't I just get over it?" Her answer was quiet, but measured: "If this happened to me, would you tell me to get over it?"
Folks, it was a lightbulb moment - no, more like a lightning-strike moment.
Of course I wouldn't tell my best friend to "get over it". I'd tell her to take all the time she needed; that she should be kind to herself; that she could call and we could talk and laugh and cry whenever she wanted to.
So why couldn't I extend the same compassion to myself? Likewise, if my friend had just had an operation, would my first thoughts be, "She should really be using her time off to catch up on blog posts" or "She should really stop wasting her time napping and get her second bedroom in order - yikes, it's a disaster in there"?
So, next time you put yourself down or critize how you're handling a situation, ask yourself: would you treat your friend this way? Chances are, the answer would be a resounding "no".
Tuesday, August 9, 2016
Last week, I went to the launch of Heal's new sleep studio, where I heard blogger and interior stylist Maxine of We Love Home share her tips for a good night's sleep. I loved it so much, it made me think of my own sleep routine and what I did when I struggled with a short period of insomnia last week.
I'm usually the type of person who can drop off to sleep quite easily; the type of person who'll boast, "I'm asleep before my head hits the pillow!" Of course, that is, when my husband's not away for travel (or there's at least a friend sleeping over in the guest room on the floor below) and I'm not feeling particularly anxious or worried about an upcoming event. In those situations, I have a terrible time falling asleep and often don't drop off until about 1 or 2 in the morning, waking up feeling groggy and in a totally bad mood (which is no surprise, since this 2012 survey conducted by Sleepio showed that you're twice as likely to suffer from low mood and struggle to be productive if you've had a bad night's sleep).
Last week, I had one of those weeks, and I kept waking up between 2:00 - 4:00 a.m. In the throes of insomnia, I ended up buying an expensive electric toothbrush (because it was on Amazon deals, y'all and because - let's be honest - it was the "rose gold edition") and watching episodes of Gilmore Girls until I dreamt that Rory was my friend and Lorelai was my adoptive mom. You get the picture.
On the fourth night, I finally had enough of this and found some ways to help me get some restful sleep. I thought I'd share this with you because, in talking to friends, I've discovered that insomnia and sleeplessness are more common than I thought.
So, here are five things that help me get to sleep when I need it:
The 'Sleep With Me' podcast
I stumbled upon this podcast reviewed in The New Yorker and became instantly hooked after it worked the first night I tried it. After that, if I was feeling particularly anxious, listening to it helped me drop off to a restful night's sleep and - more importantly - it helped me stay asleep through the night. Billed as, "The podcast that puts you to sleep: a lulling, droning, boring bedtime story to distract your racing mind", I initially thought that Drew Ackerman's rambling stories delivered in his upstate New York accent would irritate me and, worse, keep me awake. But I soon found out that they were perfect for falling asleep to because you can drop in and out without feeling like you're missing out on any crucial aspect of the "story", if you know what I mean. I'll focus on his words and follow them half-way, before spacing out, then dropping back in, and, before I know it, I'll wake to sunlight streaming through my windows. It's that good. I usually put it on my phone on medium-volume on my bedside table after I've turned the lights out.
A mini-yoga routine after brushing my teeth
I recently bought the Philips Sonicare Diamondclean toothbrush (ahem, the very item I bought when I couldn't sleep) and now brushing my teeth is one of the most calming things ever. Unlike other electric toothbrushes, it's very quiet, and feels like my gums are being massaged! But anyway. I digress. Sometimes after brushing my teeth, I like to dim the lights, unroll my yoga mat in my room and treat myself to a little 10-minute routine. Nothing energetic like chaturanga or bow pose, but just simple things like lying on my back in a restorative position (or with my legs up the wall) and stretching/doing a few twists. For me, twists release so much tension in my back and body; I literally feel like I'm "wringing" out the stresses of my day. John watched me do this from the bed once and was so curious, he tried it on the next night and said he felt much better too!
Avoiding social media (or my phone at all) at bedtime
I know you're not supposed to have electronics in your bedroom at all, but I always keep my phone next to me since I live far from my family and I'm always worried about getting a call in the middle of the night (knock on wood!). I'm really bad at resisting the urge to check Instagram, Twitter or Facebook right before bed and on the nights that I do, I go to sleep feeling agitated or with my mind racing. I've already turned off the notifications on my phone for these platforms (which has significantly decreased my feelings of anxiety throughout the day), but I find it's best to avoid them completely if I want a good night's sleep. It's kind of easier said than done, though, especially as a blogger (I'm sure at least a few of you can relate?).
Jumping into an already-made bed
Okay. I'll hold my hands up to this one: this is 100% me. John leaves the house a full two hours before I do (yep, he leaves for work at 6:00 a.m. or earlier every single morning) and I am terrible at making the bed everyday, even though we have gorgeous, huge decorative cushions from The White Company that you'd think would encourage me to do so. Nope, I just leave them plopped on the floor/armchair while the bed looks like Tracey Emin's masterpiece. But entering into a room with an unmade bed just draws my focus and attention to the disorder and chaos of the rumpled covers and pillows that are askew. Lately, I've been making more of an effort to smooth out the duvet, plump up the pillows and prop up our lovely cushions from The White Company before I leave for work. It feels much calmer and almost like a treat to crawl into that bed at night!
Wearing an eye shade
If I really have trouble sleeping, I'll wear an eye shade like this one . Our street is relatively quiet, so I don't have a problem with noise. We have blackout blinds in our room, but during the summer when our windows are open, some ambient light gets in and I'll start trying to make shapes out in the room when I'm attempting to drop off to sleep. My friend made a lovely eye shade for me using beautiful Liberty fabric and I love wearing it. It's very light and silky, so I can barely feel it when it's on (unlike the heavy-duty one I like to use on the plane) and it doesn't bother me if it slips off in the middle of the night (which always happens) and I find it at, you know, at the foot of my bed or something.
When I had a more regular yoga practice, I'd be instructed to engage my ujjayi breath in flow classes and we'd often do breathing exercises at the beginning or end of a class. There's so much emphasis on "finding your breath" in yoga, which is a great reminder for me as I'm quite an anxious person by nature, so I find myself shortening my breath throughout the day. My favorite trick is something I learned in class, which is to inhale for six counts - briefly pausing at the top of the breath - before exhaling for six counts. I felt myself getting close to having a panic attack the other day when I was squished in a tube carriage on the Central Line on one of the hottest days in London ... I felt like I couldn't breathe and there were bodies pressed into mine, but we were passing through a tunnel, so there was nothing I could do. I quickly changed my focus to my breathing, counting to six each time I inhaled and exhaled. I made it all the way to my destination this way - counting each time the tube went through a tunnel, and it worked, just as it works when I'm trying to fall asleep.
So, those are the five things that work for me. Do you have trouble sleeping? What works for you? I'm curious to know!
Monday, August 8, 2016
If you follow me on Instagram, you'll know that my love for decorative pineapples knows no bounds. When I spotted Elizabeth Scarlett's gorgeous, tropical-inspired collection of washbags, cushions and bucket bags in an online magazine, I was smitten - especially since I've been searching for the perfect makeup bag to stash in my carry-on.
Each piece in Elizabeth's collections is embroidered with one of her hand-painted designs. With a background in fine art and textiles, it's easy to see why her products are all so pretty and fun to use! Initially, I fell in love with the soft, pale blue Palmier chambray washbag, but then I saw the indigo-hued Ananas washbag and, well, it was game over for me. Who wouldn't want to be seen pulling that out of their tote?!
Sadly for my bank account, the Ananas washbag comes in two colorways (indigo, which I own, and grey, which I also love), plus the pattern is also embroidered on a duvet cover - yes, that's right, a duvet cover. Not sure if John would entertain the idea of sleeping on bed linen embroidered with pineapples, but there's always the guest room to play with (cue evil laugh).
I'm a fan of the easy luxury of Elizabeth Scarlett's designs and the affordable price point (which also makes them perfect to give as gifts). My washbag (pictured here) is soft and roomy - just the right size for storing my favorite in-flight essentials like the Avene thermal water spray (which is a godsend for long-haul flights! Even John asks for it when I pull it out to spritz my face) and my makeup brushes. Although I tend to pack light, I still find myself cramming things into my makeup bag right before I board the plane and struggling to zip it up after I've taken something out of it mid-flight.
Aside from the Ananas washbag, I'm also a huge fan of this Coral Palmier Bucket Bag (perfect for beach escapes and city breaks alike) and the Palmier Taupe Cushion, which I think would look fantastic on our new West Elm garden sectional.
Have a browse at the collection and let me know your favorite design! Angloyankophile readers can nab 15% off across Elizabeth Scarlett until August 15th with the code ANGLO15.
My beautiful Ananas washbag was generously provided by Elizabeth Scarlett, whose products I love! All opinions are my own.
Thursday, August 4, 2016
What's your jewellery style like? I love wearing the same simple things every day, but I'm a sucker for dainty costume jewellery. I'm basically a magpie. I see shiny things and I go, "Ooooh!"
Case in point: I recently had lunch with my friend and fellow American expat, YouTuber Robyn A, when my eyes locked onto her gorgeous Native Gem bracelet. I'd seen it before in one of her videos, but I didn't quite appreciate how pretty it was until I saw it in person. Of course, I had to ask about its origins and loved that it was from an online boutique called sixforgold, where many of the designer pieces stocked are from - you guessed it - the US.
Having lived in the UK for a decade, I feel like I know British jewellery designers like the back of my hand by now and I'm constantly looking out for indie designers and shops. But what I miss are the different styles and designers that are available in America, so when I'm not style-stalking my friends who live in the States for jewellery tips, I'm searching for independent online boutiques like sixforgold where I can satisfy my shopaholic tendencies (I also spend all day every day on Instagram and Pinterest, going ga-ga over things like midi rings and layered gold jewellery, which doesn't help my habit!).
Because of my Instagram/Pinterest/Etsy addiction, I suddenly became fixated on finding the perfect evil eye necklace (don't ask). And when I get fixated on something I don't stop until I find 'The One' (the other night, I had a bout of insomnia between 2 - 4 a.m. and ended up on a wild online goosechase for a new electric toothbrush ... see?).
Anyway, I found the perfect evil eye necklace by A.V. Max at sixforgold: not too big, not too small, subtly sparkly, with an adjustable chain so that the eye can sit just in that cleft between my collarbones, or, lower, if I so wished.
I'm feeling like it's deflecting all that negative energy when I wear it.
Good news! Angloyankophile readers can take 15% off orders across the sixforgold site with the code ANGLOYANK15. Happy shopping!
My A.V. Max necklace was generously provided by sixforgold. All opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Angloyankophile!
Tuesday, August 2, 2016
Well, here are two: risk-averse.
Yep, I'm the biggest scaredy-cat baby ever. I like to have a plan. I like to know my surroundings. Before I travel, I still print stuff. Like, my flight and hotel info kind of stuff.
John disagrees: he thinks that I have an adventurous spirit and that I'm actually really spontaneous. Either I've got him fooled or he's been married to a different woman for the past soon-to-be-four (gulp!) years, because I'm the least spontaneous person I know!
But, I'm working on it, and travelling has been a terrific way to teach me how to be more spontaneous. My life has been enriched by my travels; not just because of the beautiful places I've visited, but because of the spontaneous decisions I've taken along the way: that moped I took on the busy streets of Hanoi (despite looking like a death trap and making me fear for the safety and well-being of my ankles); the two days we left to chance in Sicily where we ended up booking the most amazing agriturismo in the middle of nowhere; the sea turtle reserve we stopped off en route to another destination in Sri Lanka just because it'd always been a dream of mine to hold a baby sea turtle.
Over time, I realized that my dependence on itineraries and plans was nothing but a learned habit that could be unlearned; a crutch that I could slowly ease my grip on. Growing up, family vacations almost always involved plans and itineraries and routines (of course, I recognize that it's much more difficult to travel with children than as a pair!), so that's how I learned to travel. Going off piste in unfamiliar territory made me anxious; it made me panic.
Then, I met John. And although he never pushed me too hard (he could tell when I started to get anxious), he gave me a good nudge in the unplanned direction and I learned to love it. I especially loved it when I realized I could embrace spontaneity without anything going terribly wrong (for the most part!), and that, if I didn't like something, I could always change the situation. My fear was never really about the unknown; it was the fear of being trapped in a situation I couldn't escape.
Now that spontaneity has seeped into the little corners of my life: "Let's get an ice-cream at the corner shop!" "Let's go for a bike ride in the forest after dinner!" "Let's watch the sun set from our bedroom!" And I feel a little bit of pride every time.
What about you? What's your travel style, your M.O. when it comes to making spontaneous decisions? Are you a risk-taker or are you more risk-averse, like me? I'm curious to know!
This month's travel link-up is hosted by Emma, Angie, Jessi, and Nano. Head over to their blogs to read more stories about lessons learned while travelling!